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Isolated and threatened, a northern Mexican mining town fights for survival

April 24, 2015

Exploited by business owners, threatened by drug cartels and abandoned by the authorities, the inhabitants of Cloete, a tiny mining town in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, are living precariously.

“What you are experiencing is the result of human evil, of abuse, political alliances and economic power,” said Raúl Vera López, the Bishop of Saltillo, at the inauguration of the humble Familia Pasta de Conchos offices in Cloete on Sunday.

The Familia Pasta de Conchos is a human rights organization that advocates on behalf of local mining families. It was founded in 2006, after an explosion at the nearby Pasta de Conchos coal mine left 65 workers dead.

Nine years on from that disaster, Cloete’s 4,000 residents continue to fight for the survival of their community. Another 106 workers have died in the years since – the result of “poor hygiene and safety standards, corrupt inspectors and negligence at all three levels of government,” according to Familia Pasta de Conchos.

Now Cloete itself is at risk, as local officials permit shady mining firms to destroy vital infrastructure – including roads, rivers, drainage and electricity pylons – in order to extract more coal from beneath the town. The mining firms were even on the point of destroying several homes until Familia Pasta de Conchos opened its office in the town in a bid to stop them.

“People didn’t used to speak out because they were really scared. They were threatened and beaten, and they still receive threats, but they’re daring to speak out now,” Cristina Auerbach, a human rights advocate from Familia Pasta de Conchos, told Latin Correspondent

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